The folding chair doesn’t get a lot of respect. Or so say designers Knauf & Brown. When they unveiled their own Profile chair, a preening sendup of the ubiquitous taupe-steel folding chair, the pair did so with a promotional video that poked fun at that proposition.
In it, a TV set beams in a ring melee that soon gets out of hand. The audience begins showering the performers with chairs, until the stage has all but disappeared under a sea of them. Soon a wrestler flicks off the television and makes to leave the room, collapsing the chair he was sitting on and carefully standing it up against the wall.
The chair, of course, is the Profile chair, and the joke, the designers admit, is a bit obvious. Still, it gets their message across–this is not a chair you’d abuse. “Folding chairs are thrown around, kicked, dropped, stood on. The wrestling cliché is an extreme example of that,” Knauf & Brown tell Co.Design.
The provenance of folding chairs is manifold–they’ve long been relegated to bar mitzvah halls, the sidelines of sport matches, backyard cookouts, or wherever else they might be needed in a pinch. But given their clumsy features and their general discomfort, they’re shuttered back to the storage closet the moment you’re done with them.
The Profile, on the other hand, was designed as a side chair. In other words, it’s a chair that sees a lot of action. “Although the chair can collapse to a thin profile, its native state is open,” the designers explain. It’s not exactly what you expect from a folding chair, but Knauf & Brown’s design is solid and rigid enough to withstand extensive use.
Still, in the event you’re “hosting a party or playing Twister,” the chair can be easily folded and stored away. And that’s half the fun: The chair folds along a single axis in one seamless motion, and without the steely twang of the frame turning in on itself. That’s because the designers eliminated the more intricate (and noisy) aspects of a typical folding chair’s structure.
Of their reengineered frame, Knauf & Brown say that it consists of “only the basic parts of the chair interacting with each other.” They noted that over the course of the design process and during their research, they discovered just two other similar designs–the canonical Anonima Castelli Plia chair and architect David Chipperfield’s Piana chair–which folded along a single axis. But these, they say, still made use of the same type of complicated “mechanism” of your everyday folding chair, only “hidden in the enclosure.”
The Profile Chair, on the other hand, makes use of just a few interlocking components: a rounded steel armature that’s painted a mute but bright yellow, with wood legs and stretcher that fold neatly into it. “Steel was used where we needed strength in small places and perimeters. We used wood for its warmth and substance. The parts of the chair that touch your body–where you sit, where your back rests, where you grab it when you open and close it–are all wood.”
The chair may look dainty, but the designers are keen to show off its strength. Just don’t go using it in the Royal Rumble.